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Calm Amidst The Storm

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Carol Bossard


January is, so far, keeping us in a rather mild pattern of weather.  I hope this doesn’t mean blizzards in February and March.  Those of us who have gardens (or farms) do need some snow cover in winter for a good growing year though.  Snow used to be called the poor man’s manure; it carried nutrients along with it as it covered the fields with white.  I’m not sure anymore just what snow carries; probably some things not so nutritious like radiation and toxins from industry but the ground still can use the moisture and whatever minerals come along for the ride.

Our Christmas decorations are all put away in the storage tubs --- well, except for the ones here and there that I just didn’t “see” when packing.  It is amazing how I can look straight at something and it doesn’t register at all!  There are now two shoeboxes full of the left-behinds: several glittering stars, one lamb, a llama, 3 golden birds and a handful of silver stars on bendable wire, etc.  I purposely left the glass snowflakes in the picture window though; they are so pretty when the sun shines through them.  I now have a new surge of energy for rearranging things a bit; bringing a fresh look to our rooms.   

One of our Christmas gifts was lovely collage framed photographs of our family, with our travels in Maine as background.  This gift does mean relocating some things already on the walls (Kerm just refuses to build me more walls… ).  Not only does it remind us of ocean spray and fresh air, but there are the faces of those we love.  So hanging this oddly-shaped frame is probably where I will begin my rearranging.  Then there is the toy room, which is really no longer necessary in quite its present form.  It was initially supposed to be my sewing room.  Then with grandchildren and other small visitors it morphed into a toy room.   The small children are growing up and I’m not sewing all that much.  It may become a library ----a small room full of books and comfort with some good lamps and the necessary toys and craft materials remaining in baskets.  I saw something like this on a Besotted Bookworm post and was enchanted.  We shall see what emerges!

The beginning of this lovely new year has been full of not-so-lovely news; dreadful fires, rumors of war, a spike in two strains of the flu and really annoying political scrambling.  I try to write these essays in a way that provides some uplift for our spirits (mine included) and reminders that the world is full of wonders as well as woe.  But occasionally --- I just have to shake out issues as though they were dirty rugs, when I feel overcome by their state of being.

Lately I have run into a troublesome “I’m certainly better than those others” attitude although it is seldom phrased quite so honestly.  Now before I tear anyone’s castle apart, I must admit to harboring an occasional “superior” judgmental thought within the disarray of my mind.  It pops out especially when I hear people choosing to metaphorically press their hands to their ears, opting for comfort over compassion; refusing to be informed out of their biases.  But I do try to squelch it in me as much as I can for I know it isn’t something in which I should be indulging, and possibly(?) some of my opinions may be equally as difficult for others to swallow.  However, in today’s world, this nose-in-the-air condition is something that seems to have spread and blossomed like a bad weed.  I’m sure elitism has always been part of humanity (in fact I wrote a spoof on it, years ago, during one of the school board races) but we shouldn’t be letting snobbery become acceptable.   Our family backgrounds, while important and interesting to us as individuals, should not be something we boast about.  Nor should our degree from Harvard, Cornell or Yale raise goose-bumps on anyone’s arms but our own.   There will be no stars in our crown because our families are members of the DAR, came over on the Mayflower, are well-to-do, literate and have a PhD beside names.

How we do the work that is provided us, how we treat people around us, how we discern with clarity and compassion the world around us; basically how we love, is what is crucial in becoming a real person ----ala The Velveteen Rabbit* (not to mention the Bible).  It would be such a good beginning to 2020 --- and to our own growth --- if we could look deep inside and uproot thoughts that we are better than the rest of the population out there because of education, wealth or general enlightenment ---- or any other reason our egos can dredge up for looking downward with disdain.   

And this brings me to another subject related to “better than”.  With all the discord over immigration, I thought I’d check back a little into our history.  To quote one writer, Louis L’Amour** “The United States had been settled to a great degree by the economic failures of Europe, albeit the ones with courage enough to attempt a change.  The wealthy and satisfied do not migrate; they stagnate.  Even those who offered religion as a reason for migration were also those who were impoverished.  Many Puritans and Quakers remained in England, but they were those who had much to lose and little to gain {by emigrating}.  It was the peasants, the lower middle class and a few adventurers or impoverished noblemen who settled America.” It is certainly something to ponder as we consider the knotty question of immigration.   If we look back, we will see clearly that every time there was a large influx of people from another country to our shores, prejudice and fear set in.   The newcomers, every single time, were banned from stores, refused jobs and wholly discriminated against for a generation and certainly you’d never let your daughter marry one!!; the Irish, the Welsh, the Italians, the Poles, the Chinese, etc.  Of course we, as a nation, should have immigration policies --- but ones made in fairness and compassion, not those made in fear and bitterness.  Arrogance and elitism are never pretty qualities no matter how cosmetically enhanced.

Winter’s chill along with the nightly helping of bad news, is sometimes hard to endure; it seems forever until we hear the spring peepers.   SAD affects so many people that sunlight lamps should probably be sold in every pharmacy.  One of the easier suggestions I’ve heard, to help increase happiness levels, is making a Happiness Jar.  I’ve mentioned this in the past, I think.  Putting one or more slips of paper into a jar each day with something for which we are grateful or a moment that has made us happy changes one’s perspective amazingly.  It is a reminder that while life is not always just how we’d like it to be, being alive is still good --- and wonderful ---- and full of small bits of happiness no matter how dour the day otherwise.   A poster I saw said: “There is always, always something for which to be grateful!”  Reading from the jar at the end of the year would be a fine way to celebrate that small bits of happiness outweigh the down times.

A moment that made me laugh this week was due to one of the cats.   There is an outside shelf under one window looking into our dining/TV room where the cats sit and seem to enjoy watching TV – probably the lights and moving colors.   I was sitting behind a desk at another window with no shelf (and no TV on).  I looked up to see one of our cats sitting a foot or two away looking in at me with a “what are you doing there?” kind of look.  And after a few moments, he stretched his paw out and tapped the window with a very clear request ---- “Could you please put a shelf under this window too?”  I think that’s not going to happen but I was amused at the very easily-read feline request.  They are also good at facial expressions that clearly say, “Feed us!!” or “We need petting!”  I think all that worry about applying human emotions to creatures is just silly.  Of course animals have emotions – (some more than others; I’m thinking maybe snakes may not feel too deeply!) and many creatures manage to be very expressive.

There is an old country saying: “Days lengthen and cold strengthens.”  I am quite happy to see more light at the end of each day but I expect that we have plenty of winter ahead of us; it’s the nature of the beast in this region.  As Hal Borland*** says, “Now comes the long haul up the cold slope between now and April.”  There is plenty of time for crackling fires, cocoa, making snow angels and snuggling in with a good book.  But in the midst of that, may there also be time for making things better in our own small ways.  Being a little less arbitrary with our thoughts and a bit more aware of possibilities for new ideas ---- even change ---- is a good way to go forward in this fine mint-new year.

*The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams --- a novel for children but full of wisdom for adults too.

**Louis L’Amour.  Quotation found in Westward the Tide.  American novelist and short-story writer.  1908-1988.

***Hal Borland --- American writer, naturalist, journalist.  1900-1978.

For you former D&D players, today is Appreciate a Dragon Day ---- noted from the Burdett Presbyterian newsletter.

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